Two former politicians who each put their name forward to become the BC Liberal candidate for the Surrey-White Rock riding are calling out their own party, alleging that from the start, there was no intention of having a fair nomination process.
“The fix was in,” said former White Rock city councillor Megan Knight.
Knight and seasoned politician Mike Pearce – who spent more than 20 years in elected office in Quesnel and Penticton – allege that the BCL’s appointment of Trevor Halford as the candidate for Surrey-White Rock was pre-determined.
Knight said she suspected something was off about a week after she filed her paperwork on Aug. 26. Knight said she called multiple times to get information about her application but was given the runaround.
“It was just a tap dance every day. Finally, I figured something was up.”
She then asked Gordie Hogg, a former BC Liberal MLA for Surrey-White Rock, to look into it, as well as Tracy Redies, who most recently held the seat.
She learned that the problem was not with the local riding association, but head office.
“I want a fair shot. The gist I got from people in the know is that they don’t want to take that chance of (Halford) going against me. If it was guaranteed to him, and if it was a nomination process, there might be a problem,” Knight said.
However, a Liberal Party representative said that wasn’t the case.
The decision to appoint rather than have a nomination, said spokesperson Brad Zubyk, was due to Premier John Horgan’s calling a snap election, forcing the Liberals to pick a candidate quickly.
Zubyk – who also recently served as campaign manager for the municipal slate Surrey First – said Halford was the only candidate who was “green lit” – a term used for people who have passed the BC Liberal Party vetting process. The process, which he said can sometimes be completed quickly, involves the examination of social media posts, past history, quotes, family connections, etc.
Zubyk said Knight and Halford submitted their applications at approximately the same time, but investigators found something on social media that called for further examination.
“There were some issues,” Zubyk said, adding that he didn’t know the details, but spoke to the vetting committee.
“They didn’t say disqualified or not. They said hers was more complicated because there were some issues that raised red flags and they wanted to look more closely.”
Knight, who said she wasn’t told by the party why she didn’t receive the green-light, told Peace Arch News she was shocked and disappointed by the process and how she’s been treated.
Knight said she’s now considering whether to run as an independent.
“I would have loved to run under the Liberal banner, but now I’ve got a taste of how the big boys play… I just… wow. It made my stomach sick,” Knight said.
Pearce, who served as a lawyer for more than 40 years and received the status of Queen’s Council, also said the BC Liberals “put a bad taste in my mouth.”
When told that the BC Liberals explained that there wasn’t enough time to vet the candidates, Pearce said “I don’t think that they’re telling you the truth.”
“There was no intention to vet,” he said.
Another potential BC Liberal candidate for Surrey-White Rock was Gurminder Parihar. Parihar understood the decision to appoint in haste, but questioned why he wasn’t green-lit in a timely fashion, as he had been previously vetted by the party in 2017, when he ran in the Surrey-Newton riding.
Pearce is asking for his money back.
“I’ve asked for my $500 deposit back because I sent it in on the basis I was going to be vetted,” Pearce said. “I did not even get vetted, and with my credentials, there’s nothing that could knock me out.”
Pearce said Surrey-White Rock BC Liberal candidates have raised funds and supported the party, and deserve a right to vote for their candidate.
“There’s about at least 1,000 members of the party and some are really pissed off. I was talking to one woman on Megan’s team and she tore up her membership.”
Asked multiple times, the party did not provide PAN by press deadline with a timeline of when it received each application. Party representatives also did not clarify why Parihar wasn’t green-lit, despite being approved in 2017.
When asked for his reaction to people being upset that weren’t given the opportunity to run against him in a nomination process, Halford pointed the finger at Horgan.
“I think they should be, you know, the issue’s with John Horgan calling a snap election. My focus has been always to run a nomination. That’s why I put in my package. That’s why I’ve been focused, over a month, selling memberships and put together a team and we’ve been diligently selling memberships.”
Halford said while he received the green light about two weeks ago, he had seen no indication that there wouldn’t be a nomination process.